The former Atlanta Falcon quarterback Mike Vick was involved in a recent 60 Minutes interview in which he claimed that he was remorseful for his actions. Who cares? He said he cried. Who cares?
I watched a recent episode of ESPN’s Around the Horn in which the panelists say that they were impressed that he appeared to be remorseful. The panelists then issued what is becoming one of the most tired clichés: “He said all the right things.” At this point in history we’ve had a plethora of troubled athletes, and we’ve had almost as many after the fact interviews and press conferences. If one were cynical, one would say that Vick, and his handlers, have learned how to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, and they have learned how to express personal responsibility in a manner that society has deemed an acceptable contrition.
Did anyone care that Mike Vick expressed remorse for his past deeds? Did anyone have their minds changed by the words he used or the expressions on his face? Did anyone doubt with all the money on the line for Vick that he was going to express remorse? If there was no doubt, then what we’re saying is that we’re impressed that he didn’t mess up a line.
The problem I have with the prominence placed on remorse is that it gives each crime two different phases: the crime itself and the interview or press conference that allows the perpetrator to express remorse. We’re never going to know by watching this media event if he’s truly sorry. The only thing we’ll know is that we’re either impressed or not impressed with the athlete’s ability to memorize and deliver a line.
The only people that should be concerned with Vick’s state of mind should be NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. The rest of us are spectators, and this whole dog and pony show should be meaningless to us. If you say what he did to dogs is unforgivable, then you should maintain that standard regardless of what he said. If you say that everyone deserves a second chance, then Mike Vick’s interview was a waste of time for you, and you should be watching and waiting to watch his day to day activities to see if his actions suggest that he will never do that again.
In 1996 Polly Klaas’ killer richard allen davis gave the finger to the press during his trial. The media, and many of my friends, were outraged. Why? The guy killed a twelve year old girl. What does it say about us that we care whether or not davis properly expressed remorse? Is our concern over remorse based upon our desire to know if people can change, or are we seeking personal satisfaction from an incident that allows us to believe that true evil does not exist?